The Chicago Bulls are enter another season in which they hope to take a step forward. We take a look at the ideal starting five
With pre-season just a few weeks away, the Chicago Bulls organization plan to better last season’s first round playoff ouster against the Milwaukee Bucks and compete for continued relevance in the league.
They did re-sign All-Star wing Zach LaVine to a max contract, then they signed Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic, and the team is hoping to reach an extension with center Nikola Vučević.
The Chicago Bulls are hinging their 2022-23 hopes on better injury luck and the further development of their younger players and it is fair to wonder whether the strategy will pay off in an Eastern Conference that saw several teams improve their rosters.
That said, there are still enough talent on the roster to make another playoff push. The strength of the potential starting roster appears to somewhat have the capability to rally the team in an unpredictable East, hence this piece takes a cursory look at the potential starting lineup.
Point Guard: Alex Caruso
With Lonzo Ball’s recovery from knee surgery not happening anytime soon, the Bulls could turn to either veteran guard Alex Caruso, second-year incumbent Ayo Dosunmu, or Coby White. Veteran, Goran Dragic could also be in the mix for the back court role.
With his adaptability with other star players, Caru-Show should be on track to crack the starting lineup. Last year, the former Texas A&M Aggie produced positive net ratings when sharing the floor with DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević, with much of that value coming via his pestering defense.
Shooting Guard: Zach Lavine
No brainer. Zach LaVine is coming off of a season where he averaged 24.4 points per game on 60.5 percent true shooting, and is one of the league’s best offensive players. This earned him his second straight All-Star appearance last February and a $215.2 million max contract in July.
Despite not being one of the best passers of the ball, he makes up for the flaw by opening up the reads the extra attention sent his way.
Considered to be one of the worst wing defenders in the league, he has improved over the last couple of seasons. Still, he is a liability on this end of the floor and head coach Billy Donovan will have to help him out, a task that becomes harder without Lonzo Ball.
Since 2019, Zach LaVine has led the Bulls in— StatMuse (@statmuse) September 5, 2022
Top ___ SG in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/Umn6OLR0Xr
Small Forward: DeMar DeRozan
Like LaVine, DeMar DeRozan’s place in the starting lineup is assured. The 13-year veteran is a few weeks removed from his best season as a pro, setting career highs in points per game (27.9), making his fifth All-Star team, and being a Darkhorse MVP candidate for most of the year.
Some fans and analysts questioned the Chicago Bulls decision to sign DeRozan, but the applause after every game-winner and every pump-fake that sent DeRozan to the free throw line drowned out those critiques. Now, these same folks will question whether he can replicate that success.
Can DeRozan shoot 49 percent from mid-range again? Will he make 51 percent of his shots from between 10-16 feet again? We won’t know these answers until the season starts, but even if his production dips, he’s good enough around the rim (67 percent between 0-3 feet) to split the difference.
Power Forward: Patrick Williams
We have seen snapshots of what Patrick Williams can do, most notably a 35-point game in the season finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves — but those glimpses also come with far too many moments when he passes up quality looks on offense.
Now in his third season, he has become a Schrodinger’s Cat-esque player for the Chicago Bulls. Because he only appeared in 17 games last year thanks to a wrist injury, so much of what he offers remains in the “potential” folder.
With DeRozan and LaVine on the roster, no one expects Williams to turn into the primary option on offense, but the Chicago Bulls hope that Williams at least becomes a less-timid shooter, especially with the lack of spacing this team has, while his defense continues to develop.
Center: Nikola Vučevic
In hindsight, sending multiple first-round picks (one of which turned into Franz Wagner) and Wendell Carter for Nikola Vučević doesn’t look like the best deal.
To be fair, the Montenegrin-Belgian did not have a terrible season; he averaged a double-double (17.6 PPG, 11.0 RPG) and EPM was pretty bullish on his offense and defense, but his subpar ability to get to the foul line (10.5 free throw attempt percentage) and his lack of defensive versatility bring about the feeling of buyers remorse among the fanbase.
Of course, none of this will matter if Vučević shoots better than 31.4 percent from 3 and increases his effectiveness as a screener. It would also make his already-good pairings with LaVine and DeRozan (both pick-and-roll tandems average 1.13 PPP) even better.
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